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Matt Douglas, Founder and CEO of Punchbowl.com

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Why I Answer Customer Service Phone Calls

If you’re a Punchbowl user and you need help, you’re likely to click on the “Help” link on the bottom of every page on the site. Most of the time, you’ll search our help section and find an answer. If you’re still stuck, you might send an email to our customer service team. But if you need an answer right away, you might look for a phone number to call. Search for “phone number” in our Help Center and you will find the following:

Question: Does Punchbowl offer phone support?

Answer: Punchbowl does not offer phone support. If you can’t find an answer to your problem by searching using the box above, you can send us an email and we will respond as soon as possible. If you’ve already emailed us and you really, really need customer support by phone, you can call the Founder & CEO of Punchbowl (Matt Douglas)… but please read the disclaimer below before calling.

DISCLAIMER: While Matt is happy to provide quick phone support and loves to talk to customers, please remember that he might be between meetings, out walking his dog, or taking care of his daughter (her name is Maya). Matt is available to offer help with issues that are specifically related to Punchbowl and he’ll assume that you are very comfortable using the Internet. Before you call, purchase a membership and then mention to Matt that you are a paying member of Punchbowl. That’s a sure way to get on his good side. To reach Matt, call him directly at 650.814.3393. Please note: Matt lives in Boston (EST) so check the time before you call. If his phone rings at 11:00pm, he’ll be cranky.

Yes, that’s my cell phone number. And it’s the only customer service phone number for the company. So why would I put my personal cell phone number out on the big, scary world wide web for all to see? Simply put: because I believe actual users are the lifeblood of a great business. And if you’re a customer of Punchbowl who takes the time to pick up the phone and (gasp) call a website, then I believe you should be able to talk to someone who can answer your question quickly.

I’ve had my cell phone number on Punchbowl for more than 5 years now. I’ve taken hundreds of phone calls from users all across this country (and a few foreign calls too). I’ve learned more about our market and users than any focus group, marketing survey or roundtable could have possibly provided. I’ve talked to real customers, with real needs and real problems. People who are actively using our site to plan an event, to send a digital greeting card, or to shop for party supplies.

There are countless reasons I answer the phone on a daily basis, and I thought I would share a few facts and figures about what I’ve learned over the last 5 years:

•  First, and most importantly: You would be surprised at how *few* calls I get on an average week. If I were to average it out over the last few years, I would guess I take no more than 5-10 calls a week.

•  The average call takes less than 3-5 minutes to resolve. Quick answers and a little explanation is all it usually takes.

•  I’ve talked to users who are savvy and a few users who are new to the web. All kinds of users seem to pick up the phone and call — there doesn’t seem to be a pattern.

•  Women call 3x as much as men — but that’s probably a reflection of our overall demographic.

•  If there is a significant problem on our website, calls come in very quickly. As you can imagine, this gives me a early barometer reading if something is really wrong. Several times this has helped us nip a serious problem in the bud.

•  People are very very (very!) appreciative of talking to a real person. Most of them are shocked that I’m real — and it’s always fun when they act surprised that it’s actually the CEO of the company. The customers that call and talk to me end up being our most loyal users — and are largely to thank for our explosive growth as a company.

•  I usually end the conversation by asking a few quick market questions (where are you from, what kind of event are you planning, how did you hear from us…). I don’t keep an official log of the answers, but I’ve certainly learned a lot about who is using our product and why they chose Punchbowl.

I could tell you many stories of people that I’ve helped — and if you ever meet someone who works at Punchbowl make sure to ask them about how I use often the Bill Clinton technique in meetings (“I talked to Marie in Sheboygan, Wisconsin today — and she gave me a great idea”).

If you’re a CEO of an early-stage company and you’re reading this thinking “Is this really worth Matt’s time?”, let me ask you a few simple questions:

1) Do you have your finger on the pulse of who used your product today and what they used it for?
2) What’s your first warning if there is something really wrong with your product?
3) Can you quickly name a few customers that would act on your behalf as a customer reference?
4) What are you actively doing to cultivate a group of loyal, fervent users?
5) Is making customers happy a priority in your organization?

If you’re still not convinced that it’s worth your time, here’s a suggestion — start taking customer support calls and see how your answers change over two weeks. Go on — put your phone number on your site tomorrow and see what you learn in your first 10 phone calls.

KEY TAKEAWAY: You say that customer service is a priority in your company? Prove it. Put your phone number on your website and talk to your actual customers.. As Becky in San Jose, CA just told me a few minutes ago “I will be a loyal Punchbowl user forever and tell all of my friends about this site just because you took two minutes to talk to me tonight. Thank you!”

No, thank you Becky. You’re why I answer customer service phone calls.

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©2018 Matt Douglas